A hot summer night, a single moment in a Chinese street market, and then she glanced away. The air was thick with the red glow of neon lights, the steam, smoke and sizzle of slices of meat frying on the table-top barbecues, the shouts of men calling orders back and forth and touting for customers, the clink of tall dark green beer bottles, and the hot red faces of the late night crowds.
I love seeing other people’s travel photographs, and when I ask to see someone’s holiday snaps I’m not just being polite and secretly hoping they won’t show me – I really, really mean it, to the point of badgering them to come up with the goods.
So when my friends Maryanne of Ephemera and Detritus and Kate of Driving Like a Maniac both tagged me to participate in Travel Supermarket’s Capture the Colour contest it gave me the perfect opportunity to vicariously travel through their photographs and by extension everyone else they nominated. I’m inspired, as ever, by the travels others undertake, and how they ‘see’ the places they visit.
The project is really imaginative in scope, asking for an image in each of five colours – red, blue, yellow, green and white. Capturing the essence of each colour in a single photograph was a great interlude while the trusty van spent the last week in Beijing having vital repairs, and the less trusty Mr Chen argued endlessly about whether it was his fault the water heater broke and who should pay for it.
Along the way I discovered something about the way I see colour around me – through my own eyes China is truly every shade of red, but also surprisingly green. And I learned my eye is rarely caught by anything yellow, despite its imperial connotations and ubiquity in temples and palaces in China, and I had to hunt very hard for an image that fitted.
As I sat on the cool green grass at The Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing this afternoon I made a point of noticing the yellows around me – the lemon ruffles of a little girl’s dress, the zesty sneakers of a teenager, the late afternoon sunlight gleaming on a pair of badminton players, the gold-coloured tiles of the gateway pavilions.
It takes the gentle push of friends, as always, for me to ‘see’ things in new ways.
RED red RED red RED red RED red RED red RED red RED red
BLUE blue BLUE blue BLUE blue BLUE blue BLUE blue BLUE
Shanghai’s tallest building, the World Financial Centre – affectionately known to us as ‘The Bottle Opener’ – towers so far above the rest of the skyline the six-story buildings in the foreground are toys by comparison. They had recently been re-roofed in cobalt blue in preparation for Shanghai’s debut on the world stage – World Expo 2010.
YELLOW yellow YELLOW yellow YELLOW yellow YELLOW
Chinese stores often have quirky and random names. I like ‘feeling’ a lot, although I’m not sure what it has to do with cross-stitch. The motorbike was purely incidental, but whoever parked it there had a great eye for composition.
GREEN green GREEN green GREEN green GREEN green GREEN
In the bamboo forests of Anji’s Nine Dragon Valley the forest floor is soft with fallen leaves and the sunlight filters through the thick bamboo leaf canopy in patterned dapples. The air is moist and warm and lush, and inside the bamboo forest there is an overwhelming sense of green-ness.
The bamboo is marked close to the ground with the owner’s name and projected harvest date.
WHITE white WHITE white WHITE white WHITE white
Kashgar is a city filled with strange and exotic sights and smells – the lure of the bazaar with its gold, silks and carpets, the veiled women, the daily call to prayer, and the intoxicating smells of smoke, spices and roasting lamb in front of the mosque. The faces are unfamiliar to me, but hold a history of this place where east and west once hinged.